VARSITY TEAMS: 20
INTRAMURAL SPORTS: 29
FAMOUS ALUMNI: EARL CAMPBELL, ROGER CLEMENS, TOM KITE
EXTRA CREDIT FOR: BEVO, THE TAKE-NO-BULL LONGHORNS MASCOT
The parking spaces outside the Texas Recreational Sports Center are virtually all filled, which is not unusual, except that it's 11 o'clock on a Friday night, an hour when most students normally would have surrendered to the pleasures of Austin's Sixth Street bars. But on this evening in late January, Texas is in the grips of its annual Spirit of Sport All-Nighter, a 12-hour-plus sportsfest—with a slightly exaggerated name—in which 5,000 students are taking part, some until after midnight.
Senior Logan Weems avoided the parking-spot drought: He arrived early in the afternoon to sign up for the slam-dunk contest and the indoor soccer tournament, just two of the fest's 34 activities, which also include basketball, racquetball and volleyball tournaments. "There's always so much going on around this campus," says Weems after a lead-footed performance in the dunk contest. "You just have to find what's good for you."
Students at Texas do plenty of searching. In the days surrounding the sportsfest, they can be found taking in competitions involving nationally ranked Longhorns teams in six sports (baseball, men's tennis, men's and women's basketball, and men's and women's swimming), all within a half mile of one another. The downside of this activity is evident in the baggy eyes and grade point average of sophomore Jeff McDonald, a sportswriter for the school paper, The Daily Texan, and in the disappointed voice of avid swim fan Indira Allick, a senior. "I like waking up at 9 a.m. and working on stories until 2 a.m.," McDonald says at the paper's underground headquarters, from which have emerged a number of top sportswriters. Many made their mark as undergrads covering some of the Longhorns teams that have won 35 NCAA titles, including 15 in swimming and diving, four in baseball and three in football. "The 2.5 GPA hardly matters," McDonald adds, "it's the real-world sports journalism experience that counts."
"There is always so much going on that it's hard to grasp it all," says Allick, who is in the swim center watching the Longhorns compete against Arizona and Florida. She lifts her eyes from the future Olympians in the pool and scans the sparse crowd. "It's just hard to get people here on a nice day when there's so much else happening," she says.
Some four hundred yards away, junior Ray Dennes is sitting chin-in-hand on a bench at Clark Field, staring glumly at the games under way on the four outdoor basketball courts. He looks longingly at court 1, but his chances of playing there are as slim as those of a blizzard's breaking out on this clear, 82° afternoon. Court 1 is for the best players on campus and around Austin. Scouts from colleges across the country sometimes hang out by the green fence, looking for talent. The starting guards on this year's Longhorns men's team, DeJuan Vazquez and Kris Clack, grew up playing at Clark.
"The first court is NBA-level, the second NCAA, and it goes down from there," Vazquez says, with some overstatement. "I went out there once and [native Austinite and former Michigan Fab Five player] Ray Jackson was there, and he had brought [former teammates] Jalen Rose and Jimmy King." So where do casual players like Dennes fit in? "Most of the students get sent down to the other three courts," Vazquez explains. "They'll rarely get called to run the first court."
The previous night at the rec center, Weems didn't mind waiting for his chance to play in the indoor soccer tournament. His team had a first-round bye, so he was content to watch two other five-man sides duel on one of the gym's three basketball courts. "We might be here until 1 a.m., but it doesn't matter," he said. "When else do you get to play indoor soccer, much less at night?" Then he stretched back, gave a nearby teammate a wink and confessed, "It's not like we're not going to go out partying afterward."